Experts say odometer fraud is on the rise in Washington state

Checking the odometer may not be high on your list of priorities when buying a used car, but it’s important to keep in mind.

Experts say despite the move to digital, it’s never been easier or cheaper to remove thousands of miles from a car’s history.

Josh Ingle, an expert in automotive electronics, showed KIRO 7′s Jesse Jones just how easy it is to roll back a vehicle’s odometer.

“You literally need to be able to read and add (and) subtract,” said Ingle. “You can do those two things. You know, you pass the first-grade test. You can operate one of these tools.”

The tool costs 300 bucks, and it works in seconds.

CARFAX estimates there are 30,600 vehicles in Washington state that have a rolled-back odometer.

That’s up 10% from last year, placing the state at 17th in the nation.

According to CARFAX, all that hits consumers, costing them thousands of dollars.

“In this current used car market where you’re already paying top dollar, if you buy a vehicle and don’t know that it has a rolled back odometer on average, you’re going to be spending an extra $4,000 on top of already record high prices,” said Emilie Voss, CARFAX spokesperson.

Or it could cost you even more.

We checked out the values of two cars that were nearly identical, except for the mileage. One was 150,000 miles, and the other just 50,000. But the difference in price? More than $6,000.

“If you buy the vehicle thinking it has 50,000, but really it has 150,000, the wear and tear is different. It has different needs. You’re going to have to replace parts that maybe you weren’t expecting to have to replace,” said Voss. “So there’s the upfront cost, and then there’s the cost over the lifetime of the ownership. And then when you go to sell it, you’re going to get less for it as well.”

So how do you protect yourself? Get a CARFAX report.

CARFAX keeps mileage readings for a vehicle’s lifetime at different points using service records and registrations from state DMVs.

You can also get a second opinion from an independent mechanic — they can see if the mileage on a vehicle matches the wear.